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Sour Grapes? Moratorium on Parties at New Wineries Passed

LODI–

What’s the polar opposite of the lush, green vineyards and wineries of San Joaquin County? How about the sterile, bureaucratic halls of a planning commission meeting?

In a 3 to 1 vote, the San Joaquin County Planning Commission enacted a yearlong moratorium on activities at new wineries, a topic that’s been a point of consternation for the past few years.

“I won’t support anything doesn’t have a moratorium in place, not for wineries, and not for expansion of existing wineries, but it’s event center component,” said Supervisor Steve Bestolarides.

The moratorium will last as long as it takes staff to update the county’s winery ordinance.

On one side of the fight, the cork popping boom of Lodi and Acampo wineries. It’s an ag-based business, but by their very nature, a social enterprise.

The other side, parties and weddings dubbed “marketing events” by the county and nuisances by neighbors used to the quiet of the grapevines. They say new business is coming in and making it more about profiting from the party than the wine.

The moratorium is making wine makers fearful they’re in for a bitter tasting fight with the county.

“I’m looking out for the new wineries that are coming on board. We should be able to embrace them and they should have the same opportunities as we have,” said Vern Vierra of St. Jorge Winery.